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Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Mashable.

Yesterday, Twitter part-time CEO Jack Dorsey announced the reasoning for not following the lead of other tech and social media companies and removing Alex Jones’ from Twitter. For those not familiar, Alex Jones is most associated with Infowars, a conspiracy/”alternative-facts” website known for spreading disinformation and perpetuating several conspiracy theories, including that the Sandy Hook school shooting was either staged or faked and that all of the grieving parents are paid actors. Parents of killed school children have relocated hundreds of miles away from their home in high security residences to avoid the loonies threatening them for being paid actors of what Jones calls a staged shooting. I’ve avoided Megyn Kelly and her schtick since she featured Jones on her Sunday night talk show on Father’s Day 2017.

Part-time Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey says the platform will not suspend Jones’ account because he hasn’t broken any of Twitter’s content rules. By the way, I say “part-time CEO” because Dorsey’s ego also allows him to be the CEO of Square. When the president of the United States is tweeting nuclear war threats at North Korea on your social media platform, running the platform is truly a part-time job.

I’ve been on Twitter for over a decade. Since the 2016 election I’ve really struggled with the platform. Admittedly, I’ve probably tried to quit Twitter at least a dozen times but like any well-trained tech addict, I’m addicted to the stream of information flowing from Twitter, as plagued with negativity, lies, and dumpster fire chic as it has been for the past year and a half.

I think @Jack’s asinine behavior has finally pushed me over the brink and sobered me up from my addiction to Twitter. Dorsey’s focus on profit for the fledging tech company, and his allowance of perpetuation of outright lies and dangerous conspiracy theories is doing more harm than good for society today. There will always be negativity in the world, that is very much apparent in what has honestly turned out to be thus far a horrible century for the world, but there’s a line of morality and I believe Twitter has crossed to the dark side. We wouldn’t expect someone to investigate if there really was a fire if someone yelled “Fire” in a theatre.

I firmly believe that the growth of tech, and especially the Internet, has outpaced society’s capacity to control, contribute, and consume much of value with all the technology we have at our fingertips today. We are behind what we are capable of, and all of this tech at our fingertips is being weaponized by bad actors in the world. This weaponization is being willfully perpetuated by greedy, power hungry people like part-time Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. When he and his Facebook counterpart Mark Zuckerberg say they’re trying to connect the world in good faith, don’t buy a word of it. Jack and Mark are greedy, power hungry men, with little regard for society, morality, or even a quality human connection.

It’s time for me to say goodbye to Twitter. It will not be easy for me. I’m an addict and I will have my struggles. I have grown reliant on some of the good information that comes from the platform. But I can’t pollute my well-being with the negativity that is rampant on the platform any longer.

I hope to maintain the quality connections I’ve had with folks that I’ve met on Twitter over the years. Godspeed to them as they try to wade through the muck.

Godspeed to all of us.

Pencil.

I fly with an iPad Pro as my electronic flight bag. ForeFlight is my software of choice. All of my flight planning information, notes, maps, etc. are stored on this iPad and I use an Apple Pencil go jot down my inflight notes.

My Apple Pencil decided to be free and did not make the trip from the airplane to home last night. I put it in a pen holder in my flight bag and closed the side pocket, but that pen holder and side pocket are not solid on the bottom, so it undoubtedly slipped out in transition. At least I know it’s not in the airplane somewhere.

The Apple Pencil is an expensive accessory to lose and I will be extra diligent with this replacement purchase. As we become more and more reliant on technology in our lives, it’s important to keep track of our doodads.

SmartRoads.

This is technology put to good use. Introduced last autumn, the SmartRoad technology on the Jane Adams Tollway (Interstate 90) west of Chicago is pretty cool to watch in action.

Surface Hub 2.

So I’ve mentioned before that I’m intrigued by the Surface lineup of laptops, tablets, and the like from Microsoft. Today I took a look at the new Microsoft Surface Pro, which is the version following the Surface Pro 4. Microsoft is trying to be like Apple with their confusing naming conventions, apparently. It’s what we do in the world of 21st century marketing.

The look and feel of the Microsoft Surface Pro is awesome. I’m impressed with feel, the fit and finish, and the overall hardware experience. I’m not as impressed with Windows 10, though I think it is getting where it needs to be. Honestly, I’m not overly enthused with the latest version of Apple’s Mac OS either, so it should be no surprise that I’m looking at alternatives from the offerings from Apple.

Then I saw this marketing video from Microsoft of their next version of the Surface Hub, a collaboration device aimed at conference rooms near and far.

WOW!

I have always been a fan of the “vision” Microsoft had hoped to achieve by 2020, as documented by some videos from the beginning of this decade, before Windows 8 came out, failed, and Microsoft got a little weird with things until they got back on track. The typography in the version of Windows on this new Surface Hub 2 is amazing. The collaborative capabilities, the tie in to Microsoft Office (especially OneNote) and the integration of Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams is compelling. I would LOVE to be able to sit in on a design meeting with my team at work using tools as demonstrated in this video. I think Microsoft is leading the pack if this product lives up to the marketing video.

I hope to have an opportunity to see one of these setups in person with real time work going on. I’m ready for the future.

Facebook Vigilance.

I just posted this on Facebook. It should be shared everywhere.

Facebook has launched a colorful, yet fairly aggressive billboard/advertising campaign in Chicagoland. I’m thinking they’ve done the same elsewhere in the country. A few of things to remember:

  1. No matter how whimsical the ads might be, Facebook has not changed their profit model in any way. Your data is their product. You are not a customer or user of Facebook. You are used by Facebook. Always be cognizant of what you are posting on here.
  2. There is little in the way of curation when it comes to information posted on Facebook. Any “news” can be posted by anyone. It can be widely publicized, across “followers lines”, by anyone, foreign or domestic, for as little as $50 US dollars.
  3. Anything you type into Facebook, whether you post it or not, is logged through keystrokes. Hitting backspace to erase an entry does not erase that entry from Facebook’s servers.
  4. Any game you share is pulling data from the people you share the game with, whether they choose to participate or not.
  5. Any quiz you do is used for data gathering purposes. You might be telling Facebook that you’re a Valerie in Josie and the Pussycats, but they’ve figured out you’re the brainy one of your group, and they’ve figured out a whole lot more about you.
  6. When you tell the world where your first concert took place or who your third grade teacher was or whether you prefer the Ice Follies or the Ice Capades, you are giving Facebook and their customers more data to match up dissimilar data about you from multiple platforms.
  7. Any time you have Facebook on your mobile devices, you are taking Facebook with you. Admittedly, Apple devices are little better at guarding your privacy vs Android in this regard, but it’s Facebook that’s tracking where you are, who you’re talking to and who you’re flirting with on text message. Facebook on mobile is Facebook with you everywhere.
  8. Facebook is trying really hard to cross-index your data on Facebook with other sources, like public records, financial records, etc. Keep that in mind!

Facebook is a great way to connect with lost friends and distant family members, but please never forget: you are NOT the customer, you are the product. Never lose sight of that. Be safe, be vigilant, and be smart when using Facebook.

Spin.

Mark Zuckerberg, creator, founder and CEO of Facebook, has spent the past week apologizing and basically following a PR-spin script to deal with the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytics revelation around Facebook, user data, and the business model Facebook uses to please their stockholders. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, joined him on the interview circuit today, basically apologizing for not having better control of data mined from the profiles of Facebook users.

Amongst all these apologies and explanations, please note Facebook has chosen to exempt North American users from stricter privacy laws being implemented on services like Facebook in Europe.

One interesting thing that Sheryl mentioned during her interviews today is that users would have to pay a subscription fee to have the data they choose to share on Facebook not shared with advertisers. Yes! Please!

I still have not deleted my Facebook profile but I have ramped back my usage of the platform. A lot. My usage has dropped by nearly 90% over the past two weeks. The only reason I haven’t cancelled my account completely is because for many people in our friends and family circle, Facebook is the only way to maintain contact with them. They don’t really exchange email, there’s not really a lot going on in the way of iMessage or text messaging, and some groups and organizations I belong to have chosen to use ONLY Facebook as a way of communicating.

This is a very bad thing.

I have said this repeatedly but I will say it again. The vast majority of “free” services on the Internet are supported by ad revenue. A majority of those services make your data available in some fashion in order to target you with specific ads. I know, you’ll say that you have nothing to hide, but it’s not the data that you’re providing that makes this dangerous. It’s the ability for unrelated companies to independently gather data about you and then connect the dots when they find a common denominator, for example, your circle of friends, your spending habits, or your browsing habits.

In our elementary school years we were threatened from time to time that a bad decision would go down on our “permanent record”. Everything on the Internet is permanent. Once it’s out there, it’s out there forever.

Do you really want Facebook to be handling your “permanent record”?

I hate sounding cynical, but Mark and Sheryl are out there spinning these interviews so they can maintain a revenue stream and please their stockholders. Notice they’re not talking about changing the business model. Notice how dismissive they are about offering a subscription option. They don’t want that. They would lose some control of your data.

Controlling your data is what’s making them rich.

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Fast.

We now have AT&T “GigaPower” High-Speed Internet. I did a speed test this morning to make sure the install over the weekend went well.

I was quite impressed.

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Visit Safely.

I making some changes to this ancient blog to deal with any potential privacy concerns when you visit to read my latest witty missive.

I have removed the “Share This” buttons from my blog posts. I don’t know what Twitter and Facebook were doing behind these buttons to track their usage (honestly I don’t have time to dig into that code right now), so I just removed the buttons altogether. I don’t know if folks were sharing my posts in this manner but now they will just have to copy and paste the link to a post in their own tweet.

None of my personal sites have advertising on them. I am not a fan of the ad supported model that runs rampant over the Internet. I don’t even like ads on my television shows. The ironic thing about that is I used to make a living writing ad copy for a group of radio stations. The more you know, I guess. Anyway, there’s nothing on this blog or any of my sites that generates revenue and I will continue to have it that way. To the best of my knowledge there’s nothing on my sites that tracks user data either. I need to look into the JetPack services from WordPress. If they’re tapping into user data, I will vanquish them from my site immediately.

From this point forward I will no longer embed YouTube videos into my posts. Google was tracking the who, what, and where when people watched these videos and I don’t like that, so when I post a video in the future it will be grabbed, stripped of its metadata and hosted on my own server. You should be able to watch a video without fear of being tracked.

I know this blog is goldfish swimming in this huge digital ocean, but I believe in practicing what you preach and I am not going to contribute to the degradation of user privacy on the Internet. It’s something that I strongly believe in and I will continue to advocate for user’s digital rights in any way that I can.

Privacy.

In January 2014 I started up a new Facebook account. It was on that date that I abandoned my original Facebook account, opened during the time that it required an .edu email address (I was in school to become a Civil Engineer at the time). I felt that the original account had filled up with too much crud and started fresh with this second account.

Today I downloaded a zip file of all the data Facebook has on me. It was a fairly small download, clocking in at just under 300 MB. Every photo, video, update, message, contact, thought… it’s all in that archive. Any and everything I shared with Facebook is in that zip file. Every time someone flirted with me over Facebook Messenger, every Russian bride wanna be that tried to get my attention, every game request, it’s all in there.

Downloading this data did not remove it from Facebook’s servers. It just gave me a copy of it.

I have been fortunate to have enjoyed online access of some sort since the GEnie service back in 1985. When I was in college (the first time) in 1986, I used to dial into GEnie and chat with other gay men scattered around the country. I remember the first time I saw an emoticon crawl across my Commodore 64. It took me a few moments to realize it was a sideways smiley face. 🙂 At 300 baud, it took a few moments for the smiley face to appear. A man that I was chatting with told me to never share anything on a computer that I wouldn’t mind sharing on the front page of the New York Times. He asked me my phone number. It was 1986, I gave him the number to the rotary phone on my dorm room wall. Two days later a card arrived in the mail. It wished me a Happy St. Patrick’s Day (it must have been 1987, now that I think about it) and it said, “I was able to find your name address from your phone number. Don’t share that information.”

I learned my lesson early.

Anything that I have shared online I would freely discuss in public. But it’s the stuff that I suspected Facebook was pulling from my data that I find alarming. Like every one of my work contacts appearing in the archive I downloaded today. When Facebook synced my contacts with my Facebook friends list to populate avatars in my list, it pulled all of my contacts down at the same time.

I have a record of every poke and every wave.

I’m happy that I use Apple products; Android users are finding that ALL of their messages and the meta data about their phone calls are ending up in their Facebook archives. Apple iOS sandboxes that information and makes it unavailable to third party applications.

There’s something to be said for paying more for Apple devices. Privacy and security are the drivers for me.

I have not deleted my Facebook profile but I have stopped using it. I’m letting it sit dormant for 30 days to see if I feel the same way at the end of April.

I’ll probably delete it then.